To the editor:
Massachusetts boasts some of the best schools in the country. In fact, that’s what drew me to Salem in the first place. However, there’s a dangerous disconnect between the health education our students receive and the health education our students need. Sixty-eight percent of our state’s chlamydia cases occur in people ages 15 to 24, and it’s time that we do something about it.
I am grateful for state Rep. John Keenan’s support of the Healthy Youth Act, which is commonsense legislation that ensures young people have the information they need to make smart, healthy decisions. I hope he will prioritize it as the legislative session comes to a close.
Currently, some students in Massachusetts still receive ineffective abstinence-only sexuality education, which is both unwise and outdated. Not only do abstinence-only programs put youth at risk for sexually transmitted infections, but research has also shown abstinence-only strategies may actually increase teen pregnancy rates. Fortunately, research also shows that teaching topics like healthy relationships, communication skills and STI prevention alongside abstinence in sexuality education classes works to prevent unintended pregnancy and keep young people healthy.
The Healthy Youth Act won’t force schools to teach sexuality education, and parents will still be able to opt their children out if they think that would be best for their child. But it will ensure that if a school does offer sexuality education, its curriculum will be comprehensive, age-appropriate and medically accurate. It’s time for research, not politics, to dictate what’s best for our young people.